Nahant’s Johnson students schooled on bicycle safety

Johnson School Principal Kevin Andrews helps Judith Crocker, outreach coordinator for MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School program, educate students about bike safety. (Owen O'Rourke)

NAHANT — A Johnson School fifth-grader is making her mark on the world. Or at least the state.

Gaby Manadee designed a poster for the third annual Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s lawn sign contest. Her creation included a simple drawing of a car with emissions pouring from its exhaust pipe. Behind it stands a man and his bicycle. It has a simple message written on top: “we have a problem with pollution. Turn off your engine! Be part of the solution.”

The design is one of four that will be turned into a lawn sign and distributed across the state.

Manadee said that her intention was to send the message that drivers should not let their vehicles idle. The signs will be available to anyone in the state who wants one, said Judith Crocker, outreach coordinator for MassDOT’s Safe Routes to School.

Principal Kevin Andrews, who bikes to work from his Beverly home each day, said the message is something the school has recently made more of a priority. It’s reasonable for parents and students to commit to walking or biking to school in the town, which is one square mile in size, to set an example for the rest of the state, he said.

“Forty-two percent of CO2 emissions are caused by cars,” said Andrews. “This can have an impact.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Crocker visited the school to teach the students about bicycle safety. Bikers should wear reflective colors and closed-toe shoes and use lights and hand signals.

“All things with wheels obey the same rules,” said Crocker.

Crocker’s helmet safety exercise got the biggest rise out of the students. Using a melon with a face drawn on it, Crocker demonstrated a fall from bicycle-riding height both with a helmet strapped on and without.

The latter resulted in a crack down the middle of the melon.

“It’s still smiling,” said Sophie Skabeikis, a fifth-grader. “It’s very sad.”

Skabeikis called the assembly “informative.” Before the meeting, she didn’t even know hand signals existed, she said.

“It’s good because there’s a lot of people that do bike to this school,” she said.

Each week, the school has Walking and Wheeling Wednesdays. This week, 64 percent of students walked or rode a bike, scooter, or skateboard to school. This included the entire second grade class.


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